July 26, 2011

More Alphabets

        I've recently got my hands on a few more block printed alphabets that I thought I'd share.  And while I'm at it I'll include another sampling from the ABC books already in my virtual collection.
        So, first up is a book from 1898, the oldest I've found so far.  The woodcuts are done by William Nicholson, originally printed in black with hand-painting of the swaths of dull color.  The book is simply titled An Alphabet, but it is specifically an alphabet of people, from artist, beggar, and countess, through yokel and zoologist.  I've shown here "U is for Urchin," which is my favorite.  I'm not crazy about the colors on most of these pieces, though, making all the people look rather sickly.  (Nicholson did a book of animals that I like better, so perhaps I'll feature that another time.)

        Another alphabet that focuses on people (the people of a distinctly upper class life, to be specific) has not, as far as I know, ever been made into a book.  Nor is it intended in any way for children -- but I'm still counting these 26 linoleum block prints by Dione Verulam, done some time around 2009.  I like this one, "I for Ironing."  Many of Verulam's scenes have English country house interiors, which are fun, but I find nothing too striking about most of the pieces.  You can see the whole alphabet here.

        Here's another sort of alphabet, printed from wood blocks by Antonio Frasconi.  This is really more of a font than full-fledged illustrations, and I'm not sure whether every letter of the alphabet was actually done.  But fitting the animals into the letters is cool, and I find a real charm in these pieces.  Here are J and R.

        Now since I wasn't so crazy about two of these new discoveries, I think I'll include a few favorites from some of the other books, too.  I love the color shading and texture of Frampton's rhino, done with multiple blocks.  I love Bowen's bears, shown with just a few cuts of the wood.  I love how the dense texture of Azarian's zinnias doesn't detract from the overall composition as I'm sure it would if I tried it!  And the butterfly is so beautiful in black and white even though I always assume that something so colorful wouldn't translate well to a block print.
        In case you haven't been here from the beginning, I've been doing a series of posts on all the block printed alphabets I've found (mostly alphabet books).  The previous posts in the series can be found here:
I plan to continue to post more alphabet images from time to time, as I find new ones, and as the spirit moves me.  Because really, I can never get too much of block printed alphabets!

[Pictures: "U is for Urchin," wood block print with hand coloring by William Nicholson, from An Alphabet, 1898;
     "I is for Ironing," linoleum block print by Dione Verulam, before 2010, image from Sladmore Gallery;
     "J is for Jaguar," wood block print by Antonio Frasconi, from Bestiary, 1965;
     "R is for Rabbit," wood block print by Antonio Frasconi, from Bestiary, 1965;
     "R is for Rhino," wood block print with multiple blocks by David Frampton, from My Beastie Book of ABC, 2002;
     "B is for Bear," wood block print with watercolor by Betsy Bowen, from Antler, Bear, Canoe, 1991;
     "Z is for Zinnia," wood block print by Mary Azarian, from A Farmer's Alphabet, 1981.]

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